What do you do when your city is chequered with unused public spaces and littered with shipping container graveyards? In a word: Boombox.


In 2013, the City of Chicago mapped out a plan to revive 600,000 square feet of public space by revamping 49 underutilised nooks, strips and corridors.

The mid-western capital has a longstanding reputation for innovative urban planning and original architecture – this recent Activate! initiative continues that tradition.


From 2015 to 2018, the city has contracted local firm Latent Design to reactivate 30 dormant public spaces, transforming them into “People Plazas” where local art, business and community can thrive.

Several of those sites have enough regular foot traffic to make them viable business locations, so Latent came up with the Boombox solution.


The Boombox is a portable popup vendor kiosk, made from a converted shipping container.

The mobile, makeshift structure functions as an entrepreneurial incubator, bridging the gap from start-up to storefront.


Latent built the first modular, pre-fabricated Boombox with help from Formed Space. Given the limited budget and tight deadline for the project, containers were ideal.

The recycled shipping containers cost between $1000 and $3500.


The prototype was cut and welded onsite, before being delivered to the Formed Space warehouse to be fabricated.

All four fixed container walls were replaced with an accordion facet that creates storage nooks so that vendors need not crowd their sales floor with excessive shelving or counters.


The first Boombox was installed on September 15 2015 on a narrow plaza in Chicago’s trendy Wicker Park.

It has been a hit with the locals and is fully booked with back-to-back vendors for the remainder of 2016. Chicago’s next Boombox location is slated to open later this year.


Each Boombox is intended to live at its site for three years, offering short-term leases between two weeks and three months.

When it comes time to close shop, the structure’s collapsibility makes relocation quick and easy.